Written By: Hadas Yariv (M.Sc, MBA(, food technician and nutrition expert.
Dietary fibers, grains and functional foods
More and more consumers are looking to balance a healthy diet with fun eating. Consumers are interested in purchasing food with positive health impact, and adapt wise dietary habits that help fight a variety of diseases such as: diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, digestive problems, cancer, cardiovascular problems and more. Dietary fibers that are integrated in different baking goods supply the demand and need.
What is functional food? What are dietary fibers and where can they be found?
Functional food is any food or product that offers health benefits beyond its basic nutrient values (carbohydrate, protein and fats)
The purpose of functional food is to enhance the health of its consumers, by prevention as well as alleviation of illness conditions, and to prevent or decrease the risk of different diseases. Studies about functional foods guarantee an improvement in the consumers’ quality of life.
The health statement attributed to functional food must be supported by independent scientific studies.
Dietary fibers are a part of the functional foods group. Dietary fibers are part of plant cells. They are defined as natural carbs that aren’t digested, as opposed to other nutrients found in food, such as carbs, fats and protein that decompose and are absorbed in the small intestine. Dietary fibers can be found naturally in food as part of the raw materials or added during preparation. For example: wheat bran which is a source of dietary fibers is a part of the wheat kernel’s bran, but may also be added to the flour directly.
There are two groups of dietary fibers, soluble and insoluble in water.
Soluble dietary fibers: have a high capability of solubility in water, absorption of sugars and fats, thus help balance the blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and fats. Also, the soluble fibers have pre-biotic effects- they undergo a process of fermentation by intestinal bacteria and so help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Soluble dietary fibers are found in oatmeal (beta- glucan), barley, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit (citrus) and vegetables.
Insoluble dietary fibers: fibers known for high water absorption capabilities. It eases intestine activity, increases satiety feeling and helps maintain a regular weight. Insoluble fibers are found mostly in whole grains, such as whole wheat flour and whole rye flour and also in various vegetables.
Balanced Health and Fun Eating
Fibers have a significant contribution to our health:
- Contributing to feeling satiety and weight management- the insoluble fibers enlarge the stomach’s capacity and slow the rate of its emptying, actions which increase feeling satiety. Studies show there is an inverse connection between consuming fibers and body weight and body fat, therefore consuming dietary fibers in a sufficient way helps keep the body weight under control.
- Balancing plasma lipid levels and reducing the “bad” cholesterol (LDL)- soluble and sticky fibers reduce dramatically the blood cholesterol levels and cause its discharge.
Consuming fibers reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases.
- Balancing glucose and insulin levels in the blood- soluble and insoluble fibers were found to reduce sugar and insulin levels in the blood. Consumption of fibers slows the rate of the stomach emptying and carb digesting. This situation causes a more moderate discharge of insulin, more moderate glucose levels in the blood and a slower absorption of glucose. These actions help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and are suitable for pre diabetic and diabetic patients.
- Improving the digestive system function- insoluble fibers increase feces’ weight and soften it, thus shortening the transition time in the digestive system. All this is thanks to the water absorption ability of the fibers and the increased bacteria mass resulted from fermentation (soluble fibers). This activity eases common illnesses in the population such as constipation and hemorrhoids.
- Pro-biotic effect and colon cancer prevention- fibers (mostly soluble) which are capable of fermentation effect the composition of “good” bacteria population in the intestine. The fibers encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria to a person’s health by strengthening the immune system. Studies show there is an inverse connection between consuming dietary fibers and incidence of colon cancer.
How much fiber should you consume every day?
The recommendation for daily consumption of dietary fibers is general and includes the soluble and insoluble fibers. It varies between groups of age and sex. According to National Institutions of Health, the satisfactory daily consumption of dietary fibers for an adult menu moves between 25 grams (women) and 38 grams (men) of fibers. The FDA recommends 3 whole grain servings a day. For example, one slice of whole wheat bread or 2 slices of light bread are considered one serving of whole grain.
Which breads and baked goods contain fibers?
There is an extensive recommendation of the Ministry of Health to consume whole grains. Whole grains, including the bran, contain a large quantity of dietary fibers; therefore it is recommended to consume breads and baking goods from 100% whole flours.
Light breads also contain an extensive amount of dietary fibers that are added to the bread during preparation.
You can find dietary fibers in these Berman’s Bakery products:
Berman’s Layinyan Light
Berman’s Light Grains
Vadash Light Grains
Light Grain Rolls
Light Rye Bread
Whole Wheat Light Bread by Lechem HaAretz
Rye Bread with Pumpkin Seeds by Lechem HaAretz
100% Light Rye Bread by Lechem HaAretz
Tips to increase our dietary fibers consumption
- Increase your vegetable and fruit consumption- fresh vegetable and fruit provide a nice amount of fibers, especially if eaten with the peel (after washing with water and soap, of course).
- Try to keep at least half of the grain products you eat (pastries, pasta, morning cereal, rice etc) made with whole grains.
Add oatmeal flakes and other grains to your salad.
- Eat a lot of legumes such as peas and beans, which contain a large amount of fibers- 1/2 a glass provides about 7-8 grams of dietary fibers.
- Of course, choose breads, rolls and pitas from 100% whole grains- in the house and outside: at work, the university or at school, eat sandwiches from breads rich with dietary fibers.